Featured News Papua New Guinea

PNG Earthquake death toll at 75 and climbing

In Timu village, Komo-Magarima district of the Hela Province, the pain of losing loved ones is still raw eight days on.

The old men cry for the los of their sons, daughters and grandchildren who died in the landslip caused by the quake.

The village is unrecognizable. It has been replaced by tons of rock and debris.

“This is where we found the body of a baby girl. She was still breast feeding. Then we found her mother and older sister,” said Timu villager, Ando Tangiato.

Eleven people died here. Four were recovered. But a a whole family of seven is still buried. The villagers armed with spades and bush knives are struggling with the thought that they may have to abandon the recovery effort go on in life without, at least, finding the bodies.

“We planted flowers here to mark the graves because we can’t find them,” says another villager.

While others affected by the quake count their costs in terms of damaged infrastructure and the loss of revenue, this is the human face of the tragedy.

Sana Bongu, a grade five student at Magarima Primary school lost his entire family – his father, mother, siblings and an uncle.

Mekere Alo, had send his wife and child to live her parents – they all died in the quake.

The job of confirming deaths is being done by a small team of three doctors, led by Dr. Tana Kiak from the Tari hospital. Working with limited resources, Dr. Kiak and his team have been shuttling between Tari and quake stricken areas.

With each visit, the death toll continues to rise steadily.

“We have just issued 11 death certificates. We told them that they are in a dangerous location so they will be seeing more chopper flights into this area.”

At Huiya village, on the Hela-Western border, more than 2000 people have gathered in what’s now become a care center.

Food is in short supply as people from neighboring villages flock in to the mission station after losing their homes and gardens.

The response from the National Government has been sluggish. The first hint of assistance came from the Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) which flew in supplies and evacuated a few injured from the Huiya- Bosavi area on the Hela- Western Border.

The Australian Government has been ferrying supplies into Moro, then on to Tari and other centers.

Yesterday, Oil Search teams delivered much needed medicines to the Tari Hospital.

It will take weeks before the full scale of this disaster is understood.

The death toll now stands at 75.

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